Guest Post: Parag Joshi — Lead Teacher of Truth Academy at Manchester High School, Manchester, CT
The charge of the anthropologist to “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange” always struck me as profoundly important in loosening up the often rigid fibers of truth. In human culture, we seem to truth in suitcases of ideas.
The best TED talks unpack these ideas in a way such that the audience is left with a changed world. Producing a TEDx conference at Manchester High School was a “big goal” that I hoped would make our forays into truth more meaningful by creating a challenging, authentic, and exciting experience that could be shared with our community.
This is a culminating performance as part of “The Truth Academy” — one of six personalized learning academies at Manchester High School in Manchester, CT. Manchester High School is sometimes referred to as a “rapidly urbanizing” suburban district. Students of color comprise 50% of the student body and an equal percentage qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The Truth Academy motto is “Enrichment for All”. The study of Truth necessitates an open-ended critical back-and-forth between participants, both teachers and students. Students and teachers engage in a kind of intellectual archaeology in which they take objects, questions, texts, etc. and delve into the layers of truth that present themselves and those that lie beneath. This work is preparation for college and career. But, more importantly, it is a model for engaging deeply with the world, for finding meaning in the skin of existence.
During the nine month production process, Truth Academy students were involved in various stages: from selecting the theme of “Illusion and Reality,” to finding and selecting speakers, auditioning student speakers, helping speakers revise their talks, set design and construction, and working as needed on the day of the conference. There is nothing like a big public goal to focus both the mind and the body on learning and doing what was necessary. It was the highlight of our Academy’s activities and it galvanized us as a community of learners who are interested in engaging ourselves and others in the truths of the world. As soon as students finished disassembling the set, they began talking about how we should go about producing the conference next year.
Featured on the 2015 Manchester Tedx Program:
1. Dr. Tom Levine
Dr. Tom Levine offers his advice on mindfulness, a concept he explores through the practice of Buddhism. Tom is a great storyteller and engaged students with the perhaps apocryphal founding story of Buddhism in a philosophic take on illusion and reality.
2. Brian Miller
Professional magician Brian Miller’s talk epitomizes the adage, “practice makes perfect”. It pays off with great effect as he convinces the audience that performing magic, at any level, teaches, among other things, the essential truth of good communication: taking the audience’s point of view in mind. His TEDx talk has been viewed over 114,000 times.
3. Jonathan Miller
Manchester High School Sophomore Jonathan Miller challenges the audience to make a small change in their everyday interactions with strangers – to ask “How are you?” and mean it. Jon offers stories from his own life about being the outsider, the victim, the bully, and finally, the man of ethical action. He reminds us that we shouldn’t read a person by their cover.
4. Uyi Osunde
Uyi Osunde, former professional football player, and current middle school assistant principal, discusses the fickle nature of life. He encourages the audience to dream big even when great struggle can sometimes lead to disappointing results: due to worries about his knee, Uyi fell several rounds in the NFL draft, resulting in a payday loss to him of over 1 million dollars. How can a person deal with loss? Uyi’s answer is to encourage students to see the value of what has been learned on the road to success or failure is more important than the result itself.